Some of my greatest challenges and traumas have been triggered by visiting the knitting and stitching show in Harrogate. I love to see new ideas, designs, yarns and accessories. But my worst knitting disaster came out of such a trip. I was captivated by Belinda Harris’s ‘Festival of Threads’ – a large, lace weight, circular shawl knitted in an alpaca silk mix: luxury all the way and no minor challenge.
it wasn’t as difficult as the Scottish crofter’s ring shawls made of knitted lace, where the omission of one simple wool over can precipitate a chain of disasters. I learned the hard way to use stitch markers for each pattern repeat and try to recognise the pattern progression.
Belinda’s pattern used lace knitting, with alternative plain and patterned rows. A doddle, I thought, so ignored the advice to thread a contrasting length of yarn around at intervals to act as a backstop in case of the need to unravel.
It was on the last section that disaster struck. With 700 plus stitches and my longest cable deployed, the screw-in wooden needle broke, allowing hundreds of stitches to escape before my eyes. I held my breath and attempted rescue. No chance! There were too many slippery stitches and the pattern far too intricate. The wool had a hooky, long staple. Unravelling was a nightmare and eventually defeated me.
I didn’t think of Benedict at the time. That came later. Cross and upset, I informed Belinda of my catastrophe. She was sympathetic and pointed me in the direction of some steel interchangeable needles that clicked securely in place. Great tip. They’ve never let me down.
Altogether, it was an expensive episode. I had to buy more yarn and start again from the very beginning, but managed to salvage enough of the knitting to make a small, circular neck warmer for Mum. She had longstanding arthritis with cervical scoliosis and loved it.
The advantage of going back to the beginning was that I made fewer and less obvious mistakes and the finished shawl was so worth it all.
Back to St Benedict who says: ‘always we begin again’. So I got that right! I could have bundled it into a cupboard for posterity. Benedict was pragmatic. Experience taught him that humans are messed up and will constantly fail. But God doesn’t give up on us. The Bible tells of a Creator who loves, forgives and encourages us to start over – again and again.
It can be hard to acknowledge failure and start again from the beginning. But the opportunity to have another go is always available on demand.